Sports authorities across the world are scrambling to find
out more about the mosquito-borne virus as they make plans for
the games in August.
"Obviously, we are not going to risk taking Kenyans there if
this Zika Virus reaches epidemic levels. They have to assure us
that the country is safe enough to take athletes there," the
head of Kenya's Olympics committee, Kipchoge Keino, told
Kenya was expected to be one of the star performers at Rio,
fielding some of the best middle and long-distance runners in
the world. The East African nation topped the medals table at
the 2015 World Championships.
Keino, himself a Kenyan running great, said his office has been
in touch with Olympics organisers to voice their concerns.
"We have made it clear that unless they clean the venues of this
potentially dangerous disease, we will not go there," said the
chairman of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya, who won
Olympic gold medals at the Mexico City and Munich Olympics.
"But if they assure us that things are in order and there is no
risk to participants, mothers, we will go."
The World Health Organization declared an international health
emergency on Feb. 1 over the outbreak of the virus, that
authorities fear is linked to a rise in cases of microcephaly, a
birth defect marked by an abnormally small head.
The U.S. Olympic committee has told its sports federations that
athletes and staff concerned for their health should consider
not going to Rio.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is
advising pregnant women or those considering becoming pregnant
to avoid travel to places with Zika outbreaks.
(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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